The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between lumbar spondylolysis and payload weight between different combat units of Turkish land forces (TLF).
The authors reviewed clinical and radiological data of the military personnel with low-back pain (LBP) admitted to their clinic between July 2017 and July 2018. Age, BMI, average payload weight, and military service unit were recorded. CT scans were evaluated for pars interarticularis fractures and spondylolisthesis, whereas MRI studies were evaluated for spondylolisthesis, Modic-type endplate changes, or signal loss on T2-weighted images compatible with disc degeneration.
Following exclusion, a total of 642 all-male military personnel were included. Of these personnel, 122 were commandos, 435 were infantry, and 85 were serving in the artillery units. Bilateral pars interarticularis fracture was noted in 42 commandos (34.42%) and 2 infantrymen (0.45%). There was no spondylolysis in the artillery units. There was no multiple-level spondylolysis and the most common level of spondylolysis was L5. Commandos had a significantly higher incidence of spondylolysis and more average payload weight (p < 0.001). Twelve patients (27.2%) with spondylolysis had accompanying MRI pathologies at the same level, whereas 32 patients (72.7%) had no accompanying MRI pathologies.
Increased payload weight in military personnel is associated with spondylolysis, and commandos in the TLF have significantly heavier payloads, which causes an increased rate of spondylolysis compared to other units. Additionally, spondylolysis without adjacent-level changes on MRI could be undiagnosed. LBP in active military personnel who have a history of carrying heavy payloads should be evaluated extensively with both MRI and CT scans.